Pandemic one year on – Unexpected silver linings: Ballet classes online

Image above: Donna Schoenherr, founder / owner, Ballet4Life teaching online

“I was always very snobbish about doing dance classes online”

“I was always very snobbish about doing dance classes online” says founder and owner of Ballet4Life, Donna Schoenherr. “For years people had been asking me to do dance online and I said it couldn’t be done that way”.

As it turned out, putting her classes online during the pandemic is what enabled Ballet4Life to survive.

Ballet4Life offers dance classes for adults and its sister charity Move Into Wellbeing gives people with restricted movement the opportunity to take part in friendly, fun, classes at a level which suits them. For seventeen years now professional ballet dancer Donna has been offering classes across the range, from beginner to advanced, specialising in Adult Ballet.

She changes the programme all the time to keep it fresh and interesting. Currently her team of professional teachers offers Contemporary and Character Dance, Pointe, 50+ Ballet, #silverswans, 50+Dance, Yoga, Repertory and Jazz classes as well as the basic ballet options.

She switched to online classes early on, in March 2020, both livestreaming classes and offering an On Demand selection of pre-recorded classes for people to select and play individually.

Image above: Donna Schoenherr teaching from home

Guilty success

“It’s panned out very well, bizarrely” says Donna.

“It’s really been very successful and people have really embraced it.

“Because I feel guilty, I take a lot of people for free. For the first three or four months everything was donation based; I just said make a donation if you can”.

Like many other people, she’s had to get to grips with new technology over the past year. This was the first time they’d ever recorded classes. Now they livestream one or two classes every day, including Sundays and sometimes they do three or four livestreamed classes in a day, each with around 12 – 15 people. They have around 300 people regularly taking part, including some in different parts of the UK and Europe. Her most distant participant is in Hong Kong.

“For me it’s not about filling the screen with 100 faces” says Donna. “It’s still very much about the personal touch. We like to know who we’re working with and what they need. I’ve created selfcare packages which include Mindfulness and toning and conditioning as well as dance”.

Image above: Donna Schoenherr, founder / owner, Ballet4Life teaching online

A different way of dancing

She and her team of professional dancers found they had to alter their way of teaching entirely to suit the smaller space that people had to move around in at home. They’ve adapted the movement patterns and sequences to avoid their clients tripping over stuff in their living room and smashing vases. They’ve found people have improved their muscular strength as a result.

Class members have also improved their proprioception, she told me. (I had to Google it – it means people’s ability to perceive their body’s position in space). So there will be a generation of people who will be able to date their ability to dance on a pin head back to the lockdowns of 2020 – 21!

Image above: Ballet classes old style

Long term changes?

She has noticed that people are not so interested in taking part in sessions in the evening any more. The way we live our lives has changed fundamentally.

“Evening classes used to be super popular, but we’re tired in the evenings. We’re not seeing the sun, we’re not socializing”.

To her huge surprise she is now making more money than she was prior to the pandemic. Donna is now trying to figure out how she and her core team of five teachers can continue to offer the full range of livestreamed classes at the same time as reintroducing old style participation, together in a dance studio.

They’re taking a well earned break for a week at Easter (1-7 April) and will be back in the flesh in the week of 17 May. With a whole schedule of livestreamed classes and an ever increasing selection of On Demand videos.

Ballet4Life are members of The Chiswick Calendar Club Card. See their current offer to Club Card holders here.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: A year of pandemic – how has Chiswick fared?

See also: Remembering those the pandemic has taken – David Stewart

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